The Fidelity Millionaire Outlook, a survey of 1,000 millionaires, found that while their current outlook on the economy is weak, many expect marked improvement in the fourth quarter.

With a scale of +100 representing the most favorable outlook, zero a neutral outlook and -100 the most negative outlook, the gauge on millionaires’ views on the current state of the U.S. economy remains “very weak,” at -54. However, this is a vast improvement from the -91 it stood at two years ago.

By the fourth quarter, their reading on the economy moves dramatically to +37. This is up from +28 in 2009 and +18 in 2008.

Underlying millionaires' optimism is a belief that both business spending (with a future outlook of +48) and consumer spending (+41) will increase this year. Millionaires also indicate increased confidence in their outlook for the stock market (+39), the overall economy (+38) and to a lesser extent real estate (+17).

This shows big growth from 2010, when the overall future outlook was +28, business spending +28 and consumer spending +25.

“We were surprised to see millionaires so optimistic about the future,” said Michael R. Durbin, president of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services. “Millionaires’ outlook could be seen as a leading indicator of the direction of the economy, especially since the last time we conducted this survey in early 2009, they forecasted improvement in all aspects of the U.S. economy at the beginning of 2010.”

Despite the fact that households with $1 million or more in investable assets represent “only 5% of U.S. households, because of the amount of wealth they control, millionaires have the potential to influence financial markets as well as demand for products and services,” said Sanjiv Mirchandani, president of National Financial. “In many ways, the average investor can learn from what millionaires are thinking or doing. For instance, millionaires tend not to panic and become gripped by inertia, while they are careful about spending and have well-developed financial plans.”

In addition, 33% of millionaires said they made back all of the money they lost in the market from the fall of 2008 through the first half of 2009, and 43% expect to invest more in the stock market in the next 12 months.

However, millionaires vary widely on whether they feel truly wealthy. Forty-two percent do not feel wealthy, saying that they would need $7.5 million in investable assets to attain this outlook. Of the 58% who do feel wealthy, they began to feel so at $1.75 million in investable assets.

Forty percent of millionaires said their biggest financial worry is having enough money to support their lifestyle during retirement, even though 69% have a well-developed financial plan and 81% are careful about their spending.

“Our survey reinforces that the feeling of wealth is relative, based on factors such as the current market environment, a person’s age, lifestyle and so on,” Durbin said. “Regardless of what the market does, these factors are likely to change and, therefore, millionaires will continue to reassess what it really means to feel wealthy.”

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